Yes! Cornflakes, margarine cup! 

Ghana is an amusing country. Every time I go out, something new tickles me. So I’m in Kaneshie doing some one two one two and at a point I have to cross the overhead bridge. As I’m ascending, I see a woman sitting behind a tray selling something yellow tied in a rubber. I start to wonder what in heaven’s name that is.

 

A few steps ahead, I’m confronted with the same sight. This time, the woman has a deep brown something in a rubber too. They look like Coco Pops. Then it dawns on me that the yellow thing was corn flakes. I exclaim in my head; “Ei, corn flakes in margarine rubber!”

I start wondering what brand of corn flakes would be sold in margarine rubber because we all know corn flakes are a little pricey. I can attest to the fact. My mother used to buy me corn flakes quite regularly when I was a boarder in primary school but when I got older, the frequency reduced. It was becoming a little too expensive. If I wanted corn flakes, I would have to make sure I did very well in the previous term or I forgot about it. It would be a sheer miracle if I got some and even then, I’d have to specifically ask for it, unlike my primary school days. I’m at the top of the overhead bridge and I see yet another woman. She has two big boxes of Kellogg’s on her tray. There are also two big rubbers of corn flakes removed from their boxes and of course, the margarine rubber corn flakes are present.

When I’m done having a good laugh, I start to think about more serious and important issues. Everyone who knows me well knows I’m a food enthusiast so the first thing I think of is how tiny the portions are. I mean, corn flakes are a complete meal. It’s not one of those things where you can go to Sister Ama and buy bread one cedi to eat it with. You can’t fry an egg either. It’s a stand-alone meal. Personally, I would need about three of those rubbers to sate my hunger even slightly. I neglected to ask the price but let’s assume each rubber costs about two cedis. (I think they might be more than that but let’s just play it safe) I would have to buy six cedis. Then, I’d go to Sister Ama and buy sugar fifty pesewas and Cowbell two cedis. That amounts to eight cedis and fifty pesewas. Then I’d buy pure water. Let’s say in all I spend about nine cedis.

I can go to Amaria and get waakye for three cedis and be very full. I could spend only two cedis on kenkey and fish and be satisfied. I could even do some serious soakings with two cedis. That leaves me a lot of change to do something else with. Why then would I buy margarine rubber corn flakes?

When I was done thinking with my stomach, I realised most of the women who sold the flakes did not have the cardboard box in which the flakes originally are with them. At best, they had the original rubber packaging but not the cardboard box. I saw only one woman with the box and even then, it looked like it had seen better days. The batch number and manufacturing date are printed on the original cardboard packaging. As is the expiry date. How would I be assured that the corn flakes are not expired? You might think if they were expired, they would not be on sale. Well, think again. I have been a victim, my dear friend. I have bought expired goods not once, but twice because I neglected to check the expiry dates printed on the products. In one of these instances, the expired product was a drug. If expired drugs can be sold for public consumption, my dear friend, corn flakes would be no exception.

Even if the boxes are present, what proof have you that the box which you are being shown is the box in which the cornflakes on the table actually came in?

It might occur to you to just ask the trader whether or not the corn flakes are expired. You might think she won’t lie to you. My dear, think again. If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s to never believe a trader, especially when she is trying to get you to purchase her wares. A trader can quote all her references and even swear on her late father’s grave that it’s not expired. Her father is not dead and the corn flakes expired eons ago. And the thing is, even if they were expired, do you think she would tell you? She won’t because there’s always the possibility that you are a health inspector or something of the sort. You might also think to buy it with the belief that these people might have consciences and wouldn’t sell expired goods. Please, some free advice about Ghanaian traders; when money is involved, the conscience dissipates into thin air.

I’m not saying these women are selling expired corn flakes or coco pops, no. I’m saying nothing of the sort. In actual fact, I think what these women are doing is ingenious and absolutely brilliant. I mean, who thinks of selling corn flakes in little portions so that at least some brokemen like me can afford it? Only in GH! However, it’s good to know that what you’re eating won’t cost you more in the long run. After all, with health workers going on strike every two seconds, it would be in your best interests to stay healthy.

There’s also the question of hygiene. Most of the time, these flakes are packaged with as little human contact as possible, a machine at a factory whose name I won’t even pretend to know does the packaging. Here, I can say with a hundred per cent surety that these women package the margarine rubber corn flakes themselves. You and I were not there when they were tying it in rubbers. How sure are we that the hands that were doing the packaging were clean? How about the surroundings in which they were packaged? It all bores down to the issue of health. It is better to stay healthy.

The next time you’re crossing the overhead bridge at Kaneshie, watch out for the margarine rubber cornflakes and coco pops. Who knows, it might even strike your fancy. Just remember though that, you cannot be sure of their origin.

Corn flakes in margarine rubber. The very idea still makes me laugh, but then again this is Ghana. Everything is funny. No, scratch that. Everything is hilarious.

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